Ask A Lawyer: Common Misconceptions

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Welcome to the monthly “Ask An Attorney” article. In this segment, Haute Lawyer asks our attorneys your burning questions so that you can receive informed and well-rounded answers from the top attorneys in the nation. This month’s topic is common misconceptions.

“What is a common misconception you run across about lawyers in your field?”


           Suzanne DeWitt, Tax Law, South Florida

“There is a common misconception that Tax Law is identical to accounting, but these two specialties are entirely different. Tax Law is much more intricate than simply analyzing numbers on a piece of paper. Of course, technical number-crunching skills are essential, but Tax Law requires a broad overview of the client’s business landscape and includes a deeper understanding of the client’s business model, its ownership, and how that business is owned and managed.”

Michael Kosnitzky 3            Michael Kosnitzky, Private Wealth Law, New York

“The biggest misconception is that lawyers in the Private Wealth or Private Client space have a singular focus of estate planning or perhaps only a dual focus of estate planning and tax planning. Nothing could be further from the truth. Competent practitioners in this space, have a primary focus of reducing a client’s risks. These risks may include, of course, risks associated with various types of taxes but they also include risks associated with a client’s businesses and investments, reputation, divorce, staff selection and retention, art and collectibles, legacy and estate real property, insurance coverages, aircraft and yacht ownership, multi-jurisdictional citizenship, family dynamics and succession, and many other matters. So my real job is to minimize client risks of all sorts, with taxes and estate matters just being a subset of these. This requires a holistic approach to the practice of law and, most importantly, it requires educating clients as to what they actually need. Unlike many businesses and professions where the “client is always right” in what I do the client is usually wrong. Client’s don’t usually know what they need even though they think they do.”

Robert Elias             Robert Elias, Real Estate Law, South Florida

“The most common misconception is that they are aggressive/adversarial. While some are that way, most transactional lawyers are in fact collegial and practical. The goal is to get the deal closed in a timely manner and within budget.”

Zachary Schorr - headshot 1               Zachary Schorr, Real Estate Law, Los Angeles

“The most common misconception about most real estate lawyers in our field is that they are actually real estate lawyers. This sounds strange but many lawyers just dabble in real estate law amongst a myriad of other practice areas. At Schorr Law, we just have one focus, one practice area – real estate law. This allows us to be true experts in the field.”

           James M. Cote, Family Law/ Divorce, Massachusetts

“That lawyers are greedy and too expensive and that we charge too much despite the service we provide.”

Gavin Tudor Elliot         Gavin Tudor Elliot, Business Law & Business Litigation, South Florida

“I have often heard friends and other people I met say that if you want to kill a deal give it to a lawyer or an accountant. The presumption is that the lawyer will mire you in the details of the language and law while the accountant will mire you in the details of the numbers and kill the deal.

The truth is that lawyers are in a unique position to affect a corporate transaction, for better or worse, so it is important for them to understand how to close, not kill, a transaction. There is no one size fits all equation for a successful negotiation so an attorney must play the role needed of him to ensure the best result for the client. There may be one or more egos already at the negotiating table, the attorney does not need to bring theirs.”